Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Happy Birthday, Ann Rutherford!

Delightful Ann Rutherford turns 90 years old today, November 2nd.


I've been a fan of Ann Rutherford dating back to when I was a 12-year-old and first developed a fascination with GONE WITH THE WIND (1939).

Rutherford made a perfect Carreen O'Hara, Scarlett's sweet little sister. She didn't have a great deal of screen time, but she made an impression, just as Evelyn Keyes did as bratty Suellen; they are pictured together at the left. The film, of course, had impeccable casting down to the smallest role. Rutherford and Olivia deHavilland (Melanie) are the best-known stars from the cast who are still alive today, 71 years later.

I've often thought Ann Rutherford would have been an excellent Beth March in LITTLE WOMEN; her performance as Carreen reminded me a bit of Jean Parker's 1933 performance as Beth, but Miss Rutherford never had the opportunity to play that role.

She did, however, enjoy appearing in another classic, the MGM version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938). Ann played the Ghost of Christmas Past. Typically this role is played by a large, hearty man; MGM's casting of Ann in this role was a unique twist in a wonderful film.

Yet another classic Ann appeared in was PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1940), starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. The film may have its flaws, whether it's lead actors who are a bit too old, an abridged storyline, or anachronistic costumes...and yet, at the same time it's really a perfect film, absolutely delightful. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is one of those magical movies which stays on the TV set if one of our family happens to flip the dial past it, and we all watch it all over again, right till the end. Rutherford played flirty, flighty Lydia. Marsha Hunt, who played Mary, is also still with us, having recently turned 93.

Other favorite Rutherford roles include Connie, also known as "Gorgeous," in the big band film ORCHESTRA WIVES (1942) and a new discovery, as the cabbie Patty Mitchell in TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE (1945).

Ann Rutherford started out in "B" movies and Westerns in the mid '30s, such as MELODY TRAIL (1935) with Gene Autry and THE OREGON TRAIL (1936) with John Wayne, before moving to MGM. Two of her earliest film roles at MGM were in the notable shorts ANNIE LAURIE (1936), costarring Stanley Morner (later known as Dennis Morgan!) and CARNIVAL IN PARIS (1937). Both films have been shown on Turner Classic Movies and are well worth seeing.

By 1937 Rutherford had graduated to playing girlfriend Polly Benedict in MGM's long-running ANDY HARDY series; her earliest appearance in the series, YOU'RE ONLY YOUNG ONCE (1937), was reviewed here in 2006. She also played Carol Lambert in the three-film WHISTLING series starring Red Skelton in the early '40s.

Other Ann Rutherford films reviewed here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: DRAMATIC SCHOOL (1938), FOUR GIRLS IN WHITE (1939), DANCING CO-ED (1939), THESE GLAMOUR GIRLS (1939), WASHINGTON MELODRAMA (1941), THIS TIME FOR KEEPS (1942), and BEDSIDE MANNER (1945).

Ann's film career was mostly over by 1950. She acted on TV occasionally throughout the '50s; since that time her acting appearances have been rare. In the '70s she played Suzanne Pleshette's mother in a couple episodes of THE BOB NEWHART SHOW.

Rutherford was married for decades to producer William Dozier, who passed away in 1991.

Best wishes for the happiest of days to Miss Rutherford, with gratitude for the many, many hours of cinema pleasure her work has provided.

June 11, 2012 Update: I was so very sorry to learn that Ann Rutherford passed away this evening.

Here's a link to an additional film review, BERMUDA MYSTERY (1944).

I was fortunate to see Miss Rutherford in person at the Noir City Festival in April 2011.

June 12, 2012 Update: A Tribute to the Late Ann Rutherford.

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